Mali's northern armed groups pull out of Algiers peace talks

BAMAKO, Dec 22 (Reuters) - A coalition of armed groups in northern Mali on Thursday pulled out of long-running peace talks based on a 2015 Algiers accord because of what they call a lack of political will on the part of the West African country's military government.

The coalition, called the Permanent Strategic Framework for Peace, Security and Development (CSP-PSD), said in a statement that it would only come back to the table if talks were held in a neutral country under international mediation.

"CSP-PSD regrets the persistent absence of political will of the transitional authorities to implement (the peace accord)," it said, adding it would "suspend participation" in the talks.

Malian authorities were not immediately available for comment.

The announcement jeopardises the agreement signed in Algiers more than seven years ago between Mali's then civilian government and armed groups to restore peace in the north, after rebels sought to break away from the capital Bamako in 2012.

The rebels were defeated, but Mali has since descended into a cycle of violence in which local affiliates of al Qaeda and Islamic State have taken control of large areas, killing thousands of civilians.

The agreement sought to decentralise Mali, integrate former rebels into the armed forces and bolster the economy of the north.

Progress has been slow. Decentralisation has not happened, and constant violence has stymied attempts at disarmament and ravaged the local economy.

Mali has seen two military coups since August 2020. Former colonial power France, which for a decade helped contain Islamist militants, withdrew thousands of troops this year after Mali joined forces with Russian military contractor Wagner Group.

Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo; Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Arun Koyyur

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